Memorandum submitted by the University
and College Union
1. UCU, the
University and College Union represents academic staff and academic related
staff in universities, general, specialist and tertiary further education
colleges and adult and community learning and prison education services.
2. Our members across further and higher
education have a crucial interest in addressing the social and economic impact
created by lack of access to educational opportunity and we strongly welcome the Select Committee's
Inquiry and this opportunity to put forward our members' views.
3. There has been increasing concern about
the growing number of 'NEETs' in recent years. We are now at a level of crisis
with the number having reached 1.08 million - a generation of young people who
could be left on the scrap heap of the recession. Shockingly, recent DCSF
research on one Northern city has found that 15% of long-term NEETs are found
to be dead in ten years.
4. NEET young people are not a homogenous
group. They are statistically more likely to be NEET if they are teen mothers,
young offenders, low achievers, persistent truants or young people from
5. There is a 'postcode lottery' operating in the UK with regard
to access to qualifications. In a recent UCU survey, of the 20 parliamentary
constituencies with the highest percentage of people with no qualifications,
the West Midlands accounts for eight of them and occupies the four bottom
spots. This is significant as disadvantage tends to be inter-generational.
6. A multi-agency approach across an area
or authority, so that all the information is collected and shared across
agencies and institutions is essential if the NEET problem is to be tackled
7. There is also a need for stability of
both funding and structures, something that has been lacking in recent years.
Short term funding for new initiatives is not sustainable in tackling deep
seated problems and the evidence is that constantly changing funding streams
cause confusion for both NEETS and those whose job it is to help them.
8. NEET young people need to be listened to
and solutions to their problems placed within their own experiences rather than
imposed from outside. This should include personalised learning which is flexible
and responsive and recognises and values non-formal learning.
9. There should be clear and effective IAG
and progression routes for them, with clear and meaningful destinations which
are long term.
10. Proactive outreach work is an effective
method of engaging the disengaged.
11. The government of whatever party needs
to start tackling the long term funding and systemic problems within UK education,
employment and training in order to lower NEET numbers.
12. Low levels of public investment and correspondingly
low levels of participation have massive social and economic consequences. The
case for education and training is clear. The need to act now to increase
public investment or fall further behind other countries is overwhelming.
13. The government's concern with NEETs,
whilst rightly focused on the waste and damage to current and future lives of
these young people, is also about fears of the wider social impact. There is
strong evidence that the often multiple social and economic disadvantages NEETs
suffer, will follow them throughout their lives in terms of on-going reduced
employment prospects, poverty and its consequences in terms of poor health and
housing. This will in turn impact on these young people's families and
children, making the disadvantages inter-generational.
14. International comparisons show that the
compares unfavourably for NEETs in the15-19 age group and the 20-24 age group.
15. The OECD average proportion of each of these
age groups who are NEET is 7.4% and 15.1% respectively
16. The UK's figures are 10.7% and 18.1%.
17. Only Spain
at 10.9% of the 15-19 age group and Turkey
with a 36.1% NEETs for 15-19s and 45.7% for 20-24s does worse than the UK.
18. Analysis of the most recent data from
the OECD on young people in education shows that 24 countries have a higher
percentage of young people in education than the UK (20-29 year olds).
19. UCU would argue that one of the core
reasons for this comparatively poor participation rate, lies with the UK education
and training system. Not only is the system of providers and routes to
qualification and achievement fragmented and incoherent, with a jungle of
competing qualifications, but it is essentially elitist, class based and
20. This is reinforced by several policy
drivers, such as the importance given to league tables of providers based on
achievement and the fear of a poor OFSTED report and being placed in special
21. There is evidence that factors such as
these then distort the curriculum in schools and teaching and learning. Thus
there are clear indications that many schools teach to the tests, and
concentrate on those on the border of acceptable achievement (5A* to C GCSEs),
with those below this benchmark being left all too often to fend for themselves.
22. There has also been a long-term rising
trend in youth unemployment, going from 11.6% in 2001 to 15.1% in August 2009,.
This suggests that the rise is structural, evidence of a longer term 'skills
mismatch' between young peoples' skills and the demands of the emergent
23. The recession is hitting young people
very hard. Youth unemployment in August jumped to a 16-year high of 946,000
(Office for National Statistics, 14 October 2009) with over one in three (39%)
16-24 year-olds unemployed for over six months, the highest figure since
October 1994 (TUC survey, 14 October 2009). The number of NEETs has also risen
as young people leave compulsory education with little hope of employment, and
are joined by those low and no-skill young people being made redundant.
for the identification of young people at risk of falling into the
"NEET" category - Who are 'NEETs'
24. It is critical to understand that the young people
defined as NEETs are not a homogenous group.
25. Bernardo's, in their Report 'Second
Chances: Re-engaging young people in education and training (March 2009) lists
the following characteristics of NEET young people:
· 'looked after' children - 25% of the
total 16-19s in 2006/7;
· young parents - about 10% are teen
· young offenders -25% of the 2006-7 NEET cohort;
· low achievers (at GCSE) 39% with no
GCSEs are NEET at 16 - only 2% of those young people with five or more A*-C
GCSEs are NEET;
· persistent truants - more than seven
times more likely to be NEET at 16; the excluded - NEETs young people are three time more
likely to have been excluded from school;
· young people from workless households - 50%
of the NEET cohort in Wales
came from workless households.
26. These helpful classifications demonstrate
some persistent themes that can be used to identify the current cohort of NEETs
and those most of risk as falling into the category at 16.
Who is responsible for taking action?
27. The primary responsibility for
identifying NEETs young people and those at risk must begin with education
providers, schools and colleges. Schools
should be able to identify those who are truanting, falling behind in
attainments, being excluded, being bullied and so on.
28. Connexions services providing
information, advice and guidance should be able to identify those young people
who are disengaged and have no plans to continue their participation in
learning and have little hope of settled employment. Local authority youth
services will be in direct contact with a whole range of young people including
those in the NEET category. Community and voluntary sector organisations may
well be able to identify certain groups of young people, perhaps the most
29. However what is essential to successful
strategies around identifying NEETs young people and those at risk of becoming
NEETs is a multi-agency approach across an area or authority, so that all the
information is collected and shared across agencies and institutions.
30. There is also a need for stability of
both funding and structures. For example IAG services for young people have
been through a decade of re-organisations, re-structuring and policy
initiatives. This does not provide the stability of staffing or high morale required
to tackle deep seated social and economic problems.
31. For practioners, short term funding
means that not only is there no assurance that they can follow through on their
programmes with young people, it also means they are at risk of losing their
32. UCU recommends that in each authority
there is a clearly defined and agreed lead organisation that will co-ordinate
the variety of institutions and agencies that are involved with young people
and in a position to contribute to building up an accurate picture of NEET
young people in their locality.
and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming "NEET", and
to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who have become
33. There have been a plethora of policy
initiative, programmes and changes to the curriculum and qualifications of
14/16-19 year olds to make participation in learning more motivating and
rewarding, to reduce the numbers of NEETs.
34. However, there also needs to be more
emphasis on the reality of life for these young people and initiatives and
strategies should be aimed at reducing some of the barriers to participation
that many of them face.
35. Educational Maintenance Allowances
(EMAs) paying young people from lower income families a weekly sum of money was
started in 1999, and was subsequently rolled out nationally in 2004.
36. This has been shown to have a small but
significant impact on the number of young people from these backgrounds
continuing to participate in education. A Nuffield Review paper in 2006 estimated
that there had been 5.9% increase in School Year 12 participation in full-time
education and training. Retention rates in post-16 education have been
increased by 6.2%
37. EMAs have since been supplemented by
'Activity Agreements' which have been operated in eight areas. They are aimed
at longer term NEETs who have been in this category for 20 weeks. The young
people obtain small financial incentives - £20-30 per week to participate in
activities to encourage them to take up learning or employment. Around 11,000
young people were involved in the first two years of the scheme. It has now
been extended until April 2010.
38. NEETs young people need to be listened
to and solutions to their problems placed within their experiences rather than
being imposed from outside.
39. UCU agrees with the LSN in their report
'Tackling the NEETs Problem' that identifies nine key elements of the best type
of college provision for NEETs. The four most critical elements are:
arrangements between education providers, IAG services, youth and social
services, employers and where possible representatives of the young people
themselves. There also needs to be a proper balance between strategic and
management and organisation so that NEETs provision is integral to the whole
curriculum. There also needs to be resources for professional development for
those staff working in this area
learning which is flexible and responsive and recognises and values non-formal
· Clear and effective
IAG and progression routes with clear and meaningful destinations.
40. The other elements included outreach.
UCU considers that particularly in respect to both the long-term NEETs and some
of the groups that have already been referred to such as young mothers,
outreach work is essential to contact these young people. While we consider
that youth workers operating on the streets is one of the most successful ways
of identifying, contacting and working with NEETs
41. We question whether the capacity
currently exists to do this effectively given recent funding cuts.
effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy
42. This submission has already made
reference to the deeper and systemic issues and problems with the UK's education
and learning systems that gives rise to our persistent problem with NEETs. There
are clearly competing agendas between the activities for improving standards in
education. The narrow standards agenda is given priority to the broader agenda
of tackling disengagement.
43. UCU also believes that government has
relied too much on top-down levers such as curriculum and qualifications reform
and centrally directed initiatives and targets.
44. The government flagship policy of
raising the age of participation in learning to 18 for all young people by
2015, and all 17 year olds by 2013 is intended to help address the NEETs issue.
45. UCU is strongly in favour of all young
people continuing to participate in learning beyond compulsory schooling.
However we are opposed to introducing raising the compulsory age of learning since
this may force many young people to disappear from official records, to go
opportunities and future prospects in education, training and employment for
16-18 year olds
46. UCU has very strong fears that the
current recession and the very high levels of youth unemployment will mean am
increase in the numbers of NEETs.
47. For education providers, be they
schools or colleges, there may be a reluctance to recruit such young people
without additional resources.
Politicians have seen further education as
one of the solutions to re-connecting these NEETs young people and those at
risk of joining this cohort. One current
idea is to provide full time further education in the form of some new version
of technical schools within FE for young people from the age of 14.
48. UCU has concerns about this concept. We
recognise that there have always been young people in FE below the age of 16,
and that the numbers of these has been growing over the last five to six years.
However we do not think that FE colleges have the necessary infra-structure in
terms of facilities and pastoral care to be suitable for full time 14-16
49. It is clear that there is much good
work being undertaken by schools, colleges, IAG and youth services and many
voluntary and community organisations in dealing with NEETs young people and
trying to encourage them back to learning.
50. The government of whatever party, needs
to start tackling the long term funding and systemic problems within UK education,
employment and training in order to lower NEET numbers.
51. Low levels of public investment and
correspondingly low levels of participation have massive social and economic
consequences. The case for education and training is clear. The need to act now
to increase public investment or fall further behind other countries is
OECD indicators 'Education at a Glance',
DCSF NEET Statistics - Quarterly Brief
'Second Chances: Re-engaging young people in education and training'
Learning and Skills Network/ Institute of Education Report 'Tackling the NEETs
problem: LSN 2009.
Learning and Skills Network 'Raising the
learning leaving age: are the public convinced?' Frank Villeneuve - Smith, Liz Marshall and
Silvia Munoz 2007
Nuffield 'Education for All the future of
education and training for 14-19 year olds.
Hodgson, Johnson, Keep. Oancea, Spours and Wilde Routledge 2009
OFSTED : good practice in re-engaging
disaffected and reluctant students in secondary schools. October 2008
OFTSED 'Engaging young people' OFTSTED